A long-tailed, small-billed jay without a crest; slightly smaller than Blue Jay; 27.4 to 31 cm; 62 to 82 g. Nares covered by feathers and bill appears short. Loose and fluffy dull-colored plumage. Bill, legs, and feet black. Adults have white or lighter auricular area, dark gray or brownish gray upper parts, whitish throat often extending into a collar around the neck, and buffy gray to whitish under parts. Head white except for dull black crown patch. Juveniles are sooty black but may have whitish subocular stripe. Juvenile bill initially white, then turning black (Strickland and Ouellet 1993).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
A widespread resident of North America's boreal and sub-alpine coniferous forests (Strickland and Ouellet 1993).
Arthropods, berries, carrion, nestling birds, fungi. Copious sticky saliva from enlarged salivary glands is used to fasten food items in trees, food that is used extensively by pairs throughout the winter and even during other times of the year (Strickland and Ouellet 1993).
Nests during late winter in cold, snowy, and apparently foodless conditions. Nests of low to moderate height, often 1 or 2 trees north of north edge of open bog, road allowance, or other break in the forest. For pairs having no choice, no consistent tendency to prefer lowland over upland sites. Clutch size most often 3 or 4 eggs (Stickland and Ouellet 1993). Young were seen out of the nest on April 16. Egg dates are likely similar to those in Colorado: March 17 to May 2. In Alberta they sometimes nest in March.